DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking the release of hundreds of people whose deportations to Iraq were suspended but who remain in custody.

An Iraqi Christian says his religious tattoo could mean death if he is deported to Iraq. (Photo: Charlie Langton/WWJ)

The advocacy groups and attorneys representing Iraqi nationals allege in a Tuesday court filing that the government is detaining people without determining whether it’s justified.

“The government cannot lock people up without a reason, but ICE has done just that, ” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney, in a media release. “These individuals have lived and worked in their communities, some for decades, and there is no reason they should not be home with their children and back at their jobs while their cases take months and years to work their way through our legal system.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment Wednesday.

In July, a federal judge in Detroit blocked the deportation of 1,400 people to allow time to challenge their removal in immigration court. Government officials say the detainees have committed crimes in the U.S. and must be deported now that Iraq will accept them.

The ACLU says 279 were in jails or detention centers in 26 states at the end of October, and that they’ve either been subject to blanket denials and extensions of their detention or they have not received a review at all.

“The Trump administration is shamefully prolonging the agony of these Iraqi families in the hopes that they voluntarily give up their immigration cases,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It’s time for the court to once again step in and say enough.”

Many of those detained are Christians who fear being tortured or killed if deported.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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